A Visit to the Workshop of Bodger & Blacksmith Don Weber
Don Weber, along with being the handiest and friendliest neighbor one could possibly ask for, is a man of dizzying talents. I'm working on getting him to join the site, but he has to be one of the busiest people I know. And by busy, I mean he has achieved a remarkable amount in his lifetime when it comes to self-sufficiency and ancient crafting. I'm sure many of you are familiar with John Seymour and his books on the self-sufficient life style. I can honestly say that Don is a worthy successor to Mr. Seymour. Being Welsh and having lived in Ireland for some time, Don can lay claim to having been an acquaintance of Mr. Seymour. I have the feeling the two of them had some good times together.
Don is a Master Woodworker, Bodger (Chairmaker), Blacksmith, and overall Craftsman. He is also an avid fisherman, boater (he has written articles for WoodenBoat Magazine), brewer, and gardener, and still finds time for a round of golf most mornings. Although he is working on having it updated, his Web site has a short bio and information on his workshops. He is willing to work out deals on pricing, and will put together workshops for groups if scheduled in advance. I'm itching to take his class on building a replica of a Viking toolchest, which he demonstrated on PBS' The Woodwright's Shop, as well as other of his classes. For now, I pick his brain every chance I get, share a beer once in a while, and visit his shop in Paint Lick, KY when I get a chance.
Following are some pictures I took during a visit to his shop last summer. I'm sure many Earthineers will find common interests in his skills and the lifestyle his work propagates.
Here, Don demonstrates his foot-operated spring pole / bow lathe. He has also invented a bicycle gear driven lathe that was featured in Popular Woodworking Magazine. He created the portable lathe for a trip he took to the Honduras to teach econmically depressed groups living in tropical forests methods for earning income via methods other than logging. He performs this work through the organization GreenWood, which also instructs villagers on how to cultivate, harvest and convert under-story trees into saleable products. Don sets up shop in the area where he will be teaching, and gathers all of his material locally, encouraging individuals to gather materials from their own residences or from junkyards. More information can be found here (this link, assuming it works, will open a window encouraging you to download a Word file).
Above is an example of one of his gear-driven bowl-turning lathes. Note the hub that he took from an internal-gear bicycle.
Here, we have a contraption he has built for wet-bending some wood for the backs of one of his chairs.
And here, some chairs in progress.
He also makes his own charcoal. I won't go into detail here, but it seems a pretty simple process that entails getting a fire started and then cutting off all air so the fire smolders and the wood turns to charcoal. Finally, I'll include some pictures from his blacksmith shop. The last is of some hooks he made for us that we use to hang pots and pans in our kitchen.